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Interview: Ashley Brodeur from The Feelosophy

To me, The Feelosophy encapsulates a lot of the tools and beliefs that have helped me since starting therapy and a lot of self reflection work, and I like your holistic view of therapeutic healing…so what made you want to start The Feelosophy?

So it started almost five years ago as a workshop that combined restorative yoga and hands on touch. I was a yoga teacher in Vancouver and I had noticed that at the end of my classes when I would give a Savasana shoulder press or scalp massage that people wanted more physical touch. Then I had an idea to do a workshop focusing on this and I got such an amazing response; one woman emailed me after saying she’d just had a baby and hadn’t felt supportive touch like that in so long. I did this for four years and then opened up a pop-up studio in Toronto which luckily closed just before Covid. After teaching yoga I knew I wanted to be able to offer more but didn’t have the knowledge and skills to support that so I went back to school to get my Masters in Counselling Psychology. So The Feelosophy has now morphed into a space for people to feel, with me being a counselling psychologist as one aspect but I take the lens that the mind and body is connected and I know how important self-touch and touch is in bringing you from your head back into your body. I also now have manuals and short videos on how to perform self-touch on yourself and your partners for example.

I love that you place such importance on the mind-body connection because I feel like it’s really downplayed in traditional counselling, talking therapy and psychotherapy. I know a lot of the information you provide is on learning how to feel our feelings and I wondered why you believe the mind-body connection to be so important?

The biggest thing I realised was when I started reading about poly-vagal theory relating to the vagus nerve, which is described as the soul nerve by Resmaa Menakem in My Grandmother’s Hands, because it’s this nerve that runs all throughout our body and you realise that there’s so many nerves around our hearts and stomach. There’s so much research now around the links between the gut and mental health, which is why I’m so surprised that so many therapists when dealing with people with depression and anxiety will focus on changing the thought process without looking at what’s going on in the stomach, heart, breath and physical sensations.

What do you think the impact might be from the last year when so many people have been isolated from physical touch and perhaps neglecting the importance of self-touch?

Right before Covid the BBC conducted the world’s largest study on touch - there was also a podcast on it - and the research was primarily about people lacking touch and needing more contact in their everyday and that was before Covid. The interesting thing about touch is that it can be both healing and traumatising. It can be so different person to person, something I might find really calming might trigger someone else.

From a different perspective, during this last year I had a friend who ended up in a really toxic relationship from being so starved for touch that this instinct overrode her ability to properly recognise red flags because all she wanted was to be held. So I’m curious to see what our relationships with other people will be like and I wonder if we’ll be apprehensive or overlook certain things.

What advice would you give to someone who thinks that therapy might be beneficial for them but feels overwhelmed with taking the first step towards it?

It can definitely be scary and I often say that therapy can be like dating, some people are going to have fireworks on the first meeting and others will have to see a few people. The primary thing is that the therapist’s job is to support you. We want to know as much as we can about you. It’s so important that as a client you give your therapist feedback and let them know if you don’t like something they said or the way they approached something. Therapy is a safe space for people to test out advocating for themselves and asking for their needs within the container of a therapeutic relationship. Always use the service of a free initial call with a therapist to ask them about their style and ask them what their favourite TV show is if that helps give you a sense of who they are. Ultimately don’t be afraid to ask all of the questions you want and don’t be afraid to give feedback. Also know that therapy can be an awkward experience, especially at the beginning and that’s okay.

Obviously over the course of the last year a lot of people may have started therapy or are considering starting therapy but are put off by the fact that it might be virtual. Do you think there are actually benefits to having therapy over zoom?

I’m a big fan of virtual therapy as it can provide environmental comfort. Obviously there are some people who don’t have a safe space at home so having it over the phone whilst they walk or are in their car can be a good alternative. I always remind people that they should show up as they need to be, whether that’s tucked up in bed or sat on the floor with your coffee, tea or food even. Some people also have their pets with them or sit in the sun if they have the privacy. You can have your therapy session, log of and just cry if you need to. So I think you can make your own environment really supportive for you.

Over the last year a lot of us have either struggled personally or have seen friends and family struggle. Do you think there are any key pillars to helping yourself and those around you?

I think self compassion is so important, be really gentle with yourself. The past year has been a global trauma and it’s impacted us in ways that were very unexpected. So be gentle around how your body may have changed or whether you feel ready to go out into the world or not. Be really kind to yourself and know that your feelings might change tomorrow. You may wake up and not feel ready to have a drink with friends but maybe in a week you are. I think we all need this collective tenderness towards each other because there’s going to be people who can’t wait to meet up and there’s going to be people who take their time and we need to be tender to both experiences. Also for the body, I always like to have certain tools that ground me, like hands on your body, your breath, grounding literally with your feet on the floor or shaking your body, so that if you start to feel overwhelmed and want to shut down you can create safety within your own body first.

I completely agree with the self compassion. I think over the last year we’ve all compared our situation to others and not necessarily given our own feelings the value they deserve, thinking that someone else will always be in a worse situation than them.

Yeah, I read once that it’s important to remember that two things can be true at the same time. Other people are potentially having it worse than us and I’m also having a tough day. We need to remind ourselves that it’s never black and white, there’s a lot of grey area and fluidity and multiple things can be true at once; therefore how you or your partner, boss or friend might be feeling is true or real, regardless of someone else lived experience.

To find out more about Ashley's work go to her website or find her on instagram at @the.feelosophy - give her a follow to add some compassion into your feeds! If you're interested in working with Ashley she can take on clients in both Canada and the UK.

Originally published in my newsletter 04/07/2021


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